While Liverpool may not be in any European competition next season, the club still gets just as much attention as better teams in the Premier League or around Europe do, which puts Simon Mignolet in the spotlight for the first time in his career, with a chance to prove just how great he really is.
Part of the Belgian Renaissance, Mignolet is a sub for the national team, behind the young and talented Thibaut Courtois, who might be the best goalkeeper in the Spanish La Liga according to many, including some awards he’s received.
But not being able to land the starting gig for the national team doesn’t mean he’s a bad goalkeeper. Mignolet kept 11 clean sheets at Sunderland last season, which means there was a reason quite a few teams were chasing after him this summer, including Liverpool who have had enough of the inconsistency and insecurity produced by Pepe Reina.
Reina arrived at Anfield at a similar age and for a few years, established himself as one of the best in England and in Europe as well, until things started heading South for Liverpool. The defense became more and more of a mess, and Reina became more and more beatable after picking up three Premier League Golden Glove awards, the last of them in 2007-2008.
Mignolet arrived at Sunderland in 2010 after winning the Belgian goalkeeper of the year award with Saint-Truiden, costing £2.2 million at the time. It took him some time before finally cementing the first goalkeeper slot at Sunderland, but last season was the final proof of being a player of higher quality than what the Black Cats aspire to reach, playing in all 38 league matches, and there were some who considered him to be the top goalkeeper-performer last season in the Premier League, especially early during the season.
Now, it’s going to be completely different. Liverpool are an attacking team, or at least one that attempt to play that way, with plenty of possession. He won’t have the defensive tactics of Sunderland to protect him, and will face a very different challenge in battling focus and concentration instead of huge volume of shots at goal, with Liverpool being especially weak last season when it came to counter attacks and handling crosses.
Mignolet should do better at the latter than Reina has done for the last three seasons, with a number of memorable mistakes helping to push him out of the team this summer, going on loan to the Serie A, Napoli and Rafa Benitez. However, without a proper defense in front of him, Mignolet will have his work cut out for him, and not the proper chance to prove he is truly one of the finest keepers in the Premier League and possibly Europe.
For now, Liverpool aren’t any closer to signing anyone. Papadopoulos, Ilori, Toby Alderweireld. Many names have been mentioned, and maybe with the club back from its Asian & Australian tour, we’ll be getting a healthy dose of transfer rumors regarding new centre backs. Without a better player next to Daniel Agger than what Liverpool currently have, they won’t enjoy the best of Mignolet. Adding left back Lorenzo Melgarejo isn’t going to be enough.